June 29, 2010

Yale Chorus tours Cuba

The Yale Alumni Chorus will embark Wednesday on a 10-day tour of Cuba with a concert at the Gener y del Monte Library in Matanzas. The tour, authorized by the U.S. government, is at the invitation of the Instituto Cubano de la Música.

According to Radio Rebelde, the group will share the stage with the Matanzas Chamber Choir, led by José Antonio Méndez Valencia. The Americans are conducted by Jeffrey Douma.

Formed in 1997, the Alumni Chorus is formed by singers who call themselves "Ambassadors of Song" because of their annual international tours. The group's mission, its website says, is "promoting international harmony through choral music."

In their 2004 Gift of Song Tour, the chorus traveled to Brazil, Argentina and Chile. Its 2009 Voces Unidas tour took them to Guatemala and Mexico. The Cuba tour is called ¡Cantemos! – Let Us Sing.

Lots of great harmony singing in Cuba and my trip there a few years ago was most memorable. I met again with Vocal Sampling, sat in for a rehearsal of the incredible Exaudi, and got to meet many in the Cuban choral scene.

Posted by acapnews at 10:06 PM | Comments (0)

June 28, 2010

Sonos brings soaring sound

Asheville Citizen-Times (NC):

Forget what you think you know about a cappella singing groups. That's the message of Sonos, a six-member, Los Angeles-based crew that's bucking all preconceived notions of glee club cheese with an inventive modern edge.

The six young singers — Paul Peglar, Jessica Freedman, Ben McLain, Chris Harrison, Rachel Bearer and Katharine Hoye — use their tight vocals-only arrangements to reinvent indie rock faves.

Freedman chatted about the band ahead of their debut in Asheville at Lexington Avenue Brewery on Tuesday.

Question: How did this band get together?

Answer: We were all studying music in different forms in college around Southern California. We met while performing individually around Los Angeles. Some of us we were into jazz, some of us were into opera and some were even into acting and performance, so it's a quite a mixed bag.

One thing we all had in common was interest in a cappella. It's a unique project but it came together very organically.

Q: Do you sing both covers and originals?

A: Our first album (“Sonos Sings”) is all covers. It's songs that we all love, or songs that we felt we could creatively reinvent using only voice. Our next album, which we're working on now, is going to have originals on it.

Q: Explain the dynamics of keeping a live show interesting with your voices.

A: The biggest surprising element of the show is our use of effects pedals and loops on our voices. A cappella carries a stigma, so people don't expect the sound range we create. We use distortions normally put on guitars, and our bass singer uses an octave pedal that makes his voice sound like a bass guitar.

Q: Is it tough touring bars and clubs as an a cappella act?

A: Some places are more appropriate than others, but we're really adaptable. Our first gigs in L.A. were at the Hotel Café, which is a trendy, dark little bar. We were unusual for that kind of place, but the crowd embraced us. We now play a lot of clubs and middle-size theatres.

Q: What's next for the band?

A: In addition to our new album of originals, we're recording a Christmas album. Then this fall we're going to tour for three or four months.

Posted by acapnews at 10:08 PM | Comments (0)

June 24, 2010

A cappella singing princess

Meet the new Disney Princess Singing Cinderella Doll that plays a fifteen second snippet of the princess’ respective iconic song a cappella.

According to a press release - "In order to do this, Disney Store enlisted all of the original voice actresses (except for Cinderella and Aurora) to record the song especially for the dolls. All of the arrangements are unique and performed to the liking of the performer, so while Anika Noni Rose’s Almost There is relatively what one is used to, Jodi Benson delivers a true but breathy performance of Part of Your World while Paige O’Hara’s Belle and Lea Salonga’s A Whole New World provide powerful and border-line operatic performances. The dolls, marketed as toys more so than collectibles, are an unusual 17″ tall and will retail for $29.50 each."

Posted by acapnews at 12:10 AM | Comments (1)

June 20, 2010

Unexpected Harmony

New York Times

Over the last few months the four Filipino-American R&B singers from the San Francisco Bay Area known as Legaci have appeared on some of the biggest stages of American pop. There they were, belting perfect four-part harmony on “Saturday Night Live,” finger-snapping and line-dancing like the Temptations on “The View,” “Ellen” and “Today,” and crooning to a hysterical, sold-out crowd of 15,000 at the annual KIIS-FM Wango Tango blowout in Los Angeles. (They took the stage just after Kesha and Adam Lambert, just before Ludacris and Usher.)

If you’ve never heard of them, chances are you have heard of their boss, the teenage pop heartthrob Justin Bieber. Legaci’s members are his backup singers, which means that their camera time comes in blink-and-you’ll-miss-them flashes. Onstage they live between bursts of spotlight and the shadows of their perch at stage right.

They just might be the most visible yet invisible pop figures in the world.

Before joining Mr. Bieber’s touring group, they were rising stars on YouTube, now a crucial launching pad for Asian-American artists seeking the kind of exposure rarely afforded them by the mainstream recording industry. In 2007, Legaci began posting videos of itself doing mostly a cappella covers of Top 40 pop and R&B hits in the living rooms of its members (or of their parents).

The group has covered a few Boyz II Men classics, slowed Jason Derulo’s sparkling hit “Whatcha Say” into a plaintive, heart-melting ballad, and when it took on Iyaz’s “Replay,” Mr. Tolentino recreated its rhythms and studio effects using old-school hip-hop beat-box vocal techniques.

But it was Legaci’s version of “Baby,” the ubiquitous spring smash by Mr. Bieber, that changed everything. Joined by Ms. Nguyen and the rapper Traphik (another YouTube mainstay), the group stripped “Baby” of its slick production and re-arranged it into a passionate slice of pop.

The video was barely up for one day when the group received a call from Scooter Braun, Mr. Bieber’s manager, who just three years ago had discovered Mr. Bieber in much the same way, watching him perform his own cover versions on YouTube. Mr. Braun was so impressed with Legaci’s take on the song that he invited the group to join Mr. Bieber.

“I absolutely loved what I saw,” Mr. Braun said by phone from the Bahamas, where Mr. Bieber and Legaci were rehearsing for a summer tour. “I really wanted someone to be in the band who was from YouTube, so that Justin could give something back to the community that gave so much to him.”

Only a week after receiving the call Legaci flew to New York for rehearsals and then joined Mr. Bieber live on MTV and on New York’s top pop radio station Z100. The group has been pleasantly surprised by just how much it has been embraced by Mr. Bieber’s fans, many of whom now follow Legaci on Twitter and subscribe to its YouTube channel. The connection is not lost on Mr. Braun, who is working with Legaci on a record deal.

“The amount of exposure they get on the road with Justin is more exposure than they’d ever get working a single with a major label,” he said.
Read lots more here.

Wow! This was the lead article in the Sunday New York Times Arts & Leisure section and is very extensive. It's great to see a vocal group persevering and sure enough comes a bolt out of the blue and they suddenly are touring with the hottest group in the land! There has been a strong tradition of Filipino vocal groups here in the Bay Area such as Kai and Pinay who often perform a cappella and who have entered the Harmony Sweeps. Keep posting those YouTube clips and congratulations to Legaci for breaking into the big time.

Posted by acapnews at 10:03 PM | Comments (0)

June 10, 2010

World Cup a cappella

Great excitement in our household as we look forward to the upcoming World Cup. To this day I still remember almost every detail of the 1966 Finals and Geoff Hurst's hat trick in extra time giving England the cup.

Vocal harmony will be well represented in the opening ceremony when Grammy-winning R&B singer R Kelly performs the ceremony's showpiece song, "Sign of a Victory" with the Soweto Spiritual Singers a choral group from the township where Soccer City is situated.

Posted by acapnews at 12:00 AM | Comments (0)

June 9, 2010

Caribbean shanty singers

South Coast Today (MA):

New Bedford is a long way from the village of Barrouallie on the Caribbean island of St. Vincent. But both places share a heritage in whaling as well as songs of the sea. And a group of four retired Caribbean whalers arrived this week for a series of concerts beginning with an AHA! performance at 7:15 tonight at the National Park Visitor Center.

The singers all come from Barrouallie (pronounced BEHR-a-lee), a fishing community of about 5,500 where whalers mostly hunted small pilot whales commercially until the early 1970s. They also hunted larger quarry, including killer whales and sperm whales.

This was shore-based (or longshore) whaling as opposed to the deep sea practices used by whalers in New Bedford and other whale oil centers. This difference is also reflected in the content of the "shanties" the Barrouallie Whalers sing, which are distinct from deepwater sea chanteys. Several of the songs, however, based on old classic sailor songs like "Blow the Man Down" and "Shenandoah," may be familiar to listeners.

The songs are sung a capella and evolved from the tradition of announcing a successful catch as the boats approached the village. "As a call-and-response genre, shanty performance prescribed roles of the shantyman (soloist) and the responding chorus, directed to audiences including the boat crew, other whalers and the shore community," according to a paper presented at a symposium last year at the Mystic Seaport Museum.

"These occupational shanties also served other communicative and social functions within the whaling community, often in the form of satire."

Lanier says audiences here are in for a treat. The men's Caribbean creole English may be somewhat difficult to understand, but their enthusiasm is infectious. The quartet's performance repertoire includes other local music, such as "ring play" songs, a lively entertainment form known throughout the Caribbean.

The Whalers will appear tonight with the New Bedford Harbor Sea Chantey Chorus, whose members have been practicing the refrains of three of the Barrouallie shanties. While the shore whaling songs may be slightly different from deep-sea chanteys the chorus normally sings, one of the shanties is similar to a longtime chorus favorite, "Good Bye Fare-Ye-Well," which the Caribbean visitors sing by placing different emphasis on some words. Read more.

Posted by acapnews at 10:07 PM | Comments (0)

June 4, 2010

Eric Whitacre signs with Decca

The composer-conductor Eric Whitacre has signed an exclusive, long-term recording contract with Decca. One of the most popular and performed composers of his generation, the 40-year-old Minden, Nevada-born Whitacre has been described as “the hottest thing in choral music”. He released his first recording, which was hailed by the American Record Guide as one of the ten best albums of the year, on MCD, in 1997.

Whitacre’s music has been widely recorded by a variety of labels, including Hyperion, Gothic, Harmonia Mundi and Naxos, who have just released a disc of his choral music sung by Canada’s only professional church choir, the Elora Festival Singers, conducted by Noel Edison.

The first release on Decca will be recorded in August and is scheduled for release on October 18. Performed by the newly formed Eric Whitacre Singers, Light and Gold will also mark Whitacre’s conducting debut on disc. Guest artists will include soprano Grace Davidson, the King’s Singers and the Pavao Quartet.

Posted by acapnews at 11:42 PM | Comments (0)

June 2, 2010

New Directions a cappella on America's Got Talent

On the season premiere of America's Got Talent is an a cappella ensemble made up of former homeless military veterans. Called New Directions the group is a surefire crowd pleaser.

Posted by acapnews at 11:13 PM | Comments (0)